Hotter – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Written & Performed by Mary Higgins & Ell Potter

Directed by Jessica Edwards

Real talk here; what gets you off? Do you prefer to be cold or too warm? How about your toilet trips, how’re they coming? These may be the sorts of questions which make some of us blush, so you better crack a window, it’s about to get Hotter in here. Tired of playing life by the straight and narrow, writers and performers Mary Higgins & Ell Potter are best friends, previously dating, and want to discover what gets you hot, and are tired of playing things cool. 

Chemistry is everything, and unsurprisingly, Higgins & Potter have it in droves. Not only with one another, but with their audience, and while there is little to no direct interaction, the room feels like one unit. It’s a safe space, where all the ‘gross’ or ‘private’ affairs are out in the open, slathered on the floor and up for discussion. Because why the hell not? Why should what makes us tick, how we bump, rub and grind through the world be something confined to closed doors, and in the cases of women and transgender, kept silent? Higgins & Potter have a voice, and they intend on using it to speak for the people they have interviewed, young and old, proud and self-conscious, shavers and growers.

More than spoken word, these interviews have been compiled into a delightful expression of movement, which moves from the ludicrous to the sultry, and the downright addictive. Further enhancing an authentic feel, the tightness of the pair’s movements does slip, they laugh, they tumble and smile at one another, and it completely sells the intent of the show – this is the paradigm of feelgood, inclusive theatre. Twerking, slow dancing and incorporating this movement into the physical aspect of comedy, Hotter may well be a comedy in shape, but it has a sympathy of dance sweats of spoken word beneath.

This comedic form prominently exposes itself cheekily as Higgins & Potter incorporate ‘skits’ into the production, is a piece of brilliance. Imitation is the name of the game as the pair give character to the voiceovers we hear of the interviewees. Ranging across the board, each person feels whole, even if a caricature. There’s a backstory in the way Higgins holds her nose up at the woman who preaches warm over cold, or an understanding slouch from Potter. Additionally, the recordings of the girls meeting with Pommie, Potter’s gran, adds a sincerity which touches a nerve, reminding us that despite the humourous nature there’s emotion to Hotter.

Unabashedly diving arse-first into the opinions and feelings concerning body hair, periods, boobs, body image and masturbation, Hotter isn’t here to educate, to drive opinion or push, this is a chat with sincere frankness in delivery. Reflective of the slow removal of clothes, Hotter doesn’t lunge face-first, it gradually builds, as if reflecting the growing self-confidence in accepting our bodies. Exquisitely simple, comforting, Higgins & Potter aren’t talking down to the audience, nor across them, this is our show, your show and it’s about the women and trans people who just want to talk about these things in as natural a way as possible. 

And that’s Hotter’s strength right there, Mary Higgins and Ell Potter. Who not only write a spectacularly exquisite production but carry it in such a genuine manner that nothing feels clinical or intense. Health conscious forbidding, the desire to leap up, embrace a stranger and feel a connection erupts as the show closes. Returning in August, it couldn’t be clearer that even as someone who prefers the cold, sometimes you just have to get a little sweaty, a little flushed and a lot, lot Hotter.

Photo Credit – Holly Revell

Balletboyz Deluxe – Festival Theatre

Bradley 4:18 Choreography by Maxine Doyle

Ripples Choreography by Xie Xin

Returning to Edinburgh after a successful run at the Festival Fringe, BalletBoyz performs their current Deluxe tour, which sees two productions back-to-back. Aiming to demonstrate the all-male troupe’s ability, Deluxe introduces audiences to two different shows from considerably esteemed choreographers. 

Sacrificing their traditional essence of grace, with an image more connecting with that of masculinity, BalletBoyz loses an integral part of their charm with Maxine Doyle’s production Bradley 4:18. Risks are vital, they maintain freshness, and the intent of injecting headbanging, blood-infused brawl of aggression, mayhem and mischief doesn’t fall foul on all fronts, it’s divisive for the audience. Some will feel confusion, others intrigue, but suspicions rise many more will find disappointment. 

Bradley 4:18 is distractingly literal, too physical to feel like authentic movement, instead conjuring the image of rehearsal. The choreography is less dance, more drunk West Side Story. Set in the early hours of the morning, the troupe perform the various situations one can find themselves within, the fights, the stumbles home and the ravenous hunger. It’s all coding, in a performance which seems to be relying on allegorical symbolism for the distinction some have between masculine traits and ballet. The issue is that the piece isn’t as technically capable as they desire, nor is it as rough footed as they want to communicate. 

There couldn’t be a more significant difference between Bradley 4:18 and BalletBoyz’ following piece Ripple. Where the layout of the previous piece had an obvious structure, which grinds against the technique of the dance, Ripple presents parable, tying suggestion to the movement, incorporating storytelling into the emotion. Xie Xin showcases the exceptional ability of the group, hypnotically capturing the fluidity of change through her gorgeous choreography. In the opening short film, she discusses the struggles of dealing with a troupe of male dancers, feeling that the energy levels of a mixture would result in a better dynamic, how the boys prove her wrong. 

Casting their forms into whirlpools, gentle bends of the river and dribbles of sudden, soothing flow – Ripple is a tremendous showcase. Capturing the essence of a base element is a signature profile of choreographed movement; with fire and air being relatively straight forward. Water has a distinction in its state, it’s shifting patterns, and Xin conveys this transformative property into the boys – who in turn, alter their being accordingly to morph into the shapeless mass of water. 

Technically, there is little to fault the BalletBoyz for, indeed their strength and talent are evident in the lifts, twists and peak ability on display. Where they falter, is the communicative ambition of the first piece, which misses the mark on what we associate with the company yet fails to offer a unique diversity to explain this distancing. Ripple, however, is nearly worth the ticket alone with its sensational depth of skill, and expertise to marry raw masculinity with elegance in a touching manner.

For touring information, please visit BalletBoyz at: https://www.balletboyz.com/whatson

Rambert – Festival Theatre

Artistic Director: Benoit Swan Pouffer

A dancer’s ability stretches beyond the confines of simple movement, as storytellers, a superbly talented dancer is also a crafter of narrative. At times, the lack of a voice has drawbacks, but Rambert (in particular) excels in the extraordinary, the delicate marriage of movement and tale. A trio of performances, which couldn’t be more different if they tried, each evoke particular emotional responses – whether this is the waving bursts of Presentient, the righteous indignation of In Your Rooms, or the headbanging preservation with Rogues. Whichever you prefer, Rambert once again demonstrates their keen ability to go beyond movement, and into artistry.

Tight, claustrophobic and a relentless assault of choreography, Presentient transforms the Rambert dancers into a wave of mobile syntaxes, a grown-up Sesame Street if you will. Certainly, the most ethereal, Wayne McGregor’s choreography ebbs and flows with the soundscape, manifesting an intense wall of billowing movement. There’s a sense of continuous movement, unnervingly so, as the dancers retract into a tight-knit group. Cast against Lucy Carter’s lighting design, otherworldly yet complimenting the soft pastels of Ursula Bombshell’s costumes – Presentient is a furrowing piece which feels held back by its inability to move outside of its confines.

Sandwiching between the opener and closing performance, Marion Motin’s Rogue strides ahead as a significantly brutal, mesmeric piece of movement. When the husk we clad ourselves in burns away, removing material possessions, our shields and homes, what sort of person is left behind – and what does it take to survive? Rouge, with echoes of the horrors of Grenfell, feels the most tangible of the triple bill, it’s metaphorical contexts grounded in Yann Seabra’s costume design, accelerating perception of the dancer’s proposed character.

Visceral, Motin’s choreography ensures a sense of fatigue, though far from an issue, this is the purpose of the piece. Every stretch of muscle, each collapse and push for the dancers to communicate a sense of ‘carrying on’ is visible. That when the world around you collapses, we find this primal resource to survive, our biological machines working to the fullest to the beating rhythm behind us.

If Micka Luna’s composition doesn’t evoke memories of long, regretful but exhilarating nights out, or push you back into the club-scene check your pulse. The rhythmic thrashing ensnares spectators, drawn to the pulsing movements as they march, drum and drop into the smouldering shadows. In pace with not only the dancers, Judith Leray’s lighting is also an assault on the senses, commanding our attention and conjuring a refusal to look away.

Control is the name of the game with Hofesh Shechter’s closing production of In Your Rooms, or rather, the lack of controlMuch of the Shechter’s lively choreography feels alien, distant to the audience, but glimmers with emotional recognition. Quite often we see these repetitious patterns bubble over in select performers, their physicality broken and overburdened as they leap sporadically, or crumple into the mess laying around them. The only piece with a voice-over, noting the building blocks of the universe and how he can comically; ‘do better’, it adds an extra element to the dynamic, though overstays by a minute or two.

Narrative is key for artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer’s vision of Rambert’s triple bill. Above tight choreography, which is a given, Puffer’s desire for dancers with a purpose behind the talent, and ability to stand as both form and storyteller is evident, is part of Rambert’s issue here. Singularly, there is no fault in the movement, nor inherently with the pieces, instead, the flow staggers as two productions sit overshadowed by their middle sibling, detaching them from our expectations.

Review published for The Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/rambert-festival-theatre-edinburgh/

Photo Credit: Johan Persson